Site 1 — Murrumbeena Village
456 Neerim Road, Murrumbeena (current site of newsagency)
Murrumbeena is where Merric Boyd came to live in 1913. Back then, Murrumbeena was just a village. The Gippsland Railway was built in 1879 and crossed both Mirambeena and Neerim Roads. Murrumbeena Station was built the same year, leading to the renaming of Mirambeena Road and the rise of the Murrumbeena village. By the time Merric Boyd arrived in the area, this village boasted two estate agents, a laundry, a fruit shop, bookmaker and newsagent. To its south, lay the market gardens of East Bentleigh, and to the north, open paddocks and scrub. The east was open country, and beyond it, the township of Oakleigh. To the west was Carnegie, which was developing rapidly. By 1913, Carnegie's development was fast approaching Murrumbeena.
Merric was 25 years of age when he came to Murrumbeena. Born in 1888 in his grandparents’ house, Glenfern, in St Kilda, Merric was the second of the five children of Arthur Merric and Emma Minnie Boyd. They were both artists and could afford to travel the world and paint. Their first child Gilbert was killed in a horse riding accident in 1896, leaving Merric, Penleigh (born in 1890) and Martin (born in 1893). Their final child, Helen was born in 1903.
Merric's journey to Murrumbeena to live a life as a creative artist was not a simple one. He spent much of his youth living in Sandringham and Brighton, and attended Haileybury College. But whilst coming from a well-off background, Merric was restless and quite unsure of what to do in life. By the time he arrived in Murrumbeena, he had already worked as a jackeroo in the Riverina; studied at Dookie Agricultural College near Benalla; trialled the life of a farmer in Yarra Glen; tried to become a Minister in the Church of England at St. Johns Theological College; and studied for one term at the National Gallery Art School. None of these seemed to suit him, although he did discover an interest in clay and sculpture through a family friendship with the renowned Australian sculptor, Web Gilbert. It was this discovery which became the basis for Merric's lifelong interest in pottery.
Merric’s first experience with a potter’s wheel came while visiting a Burnley Pottery to buy clay. He loved the experience and was taught some basic skills on the wheel by their staff and gained access to a kiln. His first public exhibition was in 1911 at the Victorian Artists’ Society annual exhibition. He exhibited two sculptures, including a modelled head of Doris Gough, the woman he would marry four years later. Between 1912 and 1914 he worked at the Australian Porcelain Insulator Works in Yarraville.
Murrumbeena provided Merric with the resources he required to make pottery, including space to construct a studio and kiln, and good clay deposits. It also had a hansom cab service operated by Mr Grey from the front of Murrumbeena Station in Neerim Road. His horse was watered from a trough in front of Billy T Motors on the southern side of Neerim Road. During the 1920s and 30s, Merric and his wife Doris would be picked up from their Wahroongaa Crescent home by Mr Grey and dropped off at the station to catch a city train. Carrying cases packed with Merric’s valuable pottery, they would walk the city to stores like Georges, and Mair and Lyon, who sold his pottery to collectors, many of them wealthy, who appreciated the quality and originality of Merric's work.
While Merric is most recognised for his pottery, he also drew throughout his life especially in his middle and later years. He often drew landscapes, trees, farms and farm animals. These recalled his early years in the country, including his time as a jackaroo. He drew beach scenes of Port Phillip Bay and of areas such as Rosebud and Balnarring, where he and his family sometimes went on day trips and extended holidays. Merric often drew the houses, shops, trees, animals, fences and people of Murrumbeena. He drew the palm tree on the north eastern corner of Murrumbeena Road and Neerim Road, and the bread shop in Murrumbeena Road, which at the time was Murrumbeena’s post office. The Spirax sketch pads Merric drew on, almost exclusively were purchased from the Murrumbeena Newsagency and can still be bought from the same Neerim Road location today.
The Boyd Walk is proudly presented by Glen Eira City Council, produced by Matt Blackwood and written and narrated by Colin Smith.
For a downloadable map of all eight Boyd Walk sites, click on the link below:
Boyd Walk Murrumbeena Map(PDF, 1009KB)
Image: View east along Neerim Road from Murumbeena Road c.1926